Rest in peace and op­u­lence

Fam­ily grave plots cost up to R200 000. NONI MOKATI re­ports

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

AN ENOR­MOUS black gran­ite ed­i­face pol­ished to per­fec­tion boldly stands at the lower cor­ner of the ceme­tery. Be­low it are eight gran­ite tomb­stones carved into cof­fin-like shapes. Two gran­ite stone benches, a ta­ble and a pot plant are mounted neatly next to a wall. Not a sin­gle speck of dust is in sight.

The sil­ver let­ters “Mabit­sela Fam­ily Es­tate” are in­scribed on the large stone with an im­age of a lion placed at the cen­tre.

One would swear an em­peror is buried here. Per­haps.

The tomb­stone is the brain­child of af­flu­ent busi­ness­man Taukobong Mabit­sela.

Mabit­sela is one of the se­lect few who have spent hun­dreds of thou­sands of rand to se­cure graves for his rel­a­tives and erect elab­o­rate tomb­stones at the Four­ways Me­mo­rial Park – one of South Africa’s most ex­clu­sive ceme­ter­ies.

Sit­u­ated in Joburg’s elite sub­urb Craigavon, the Me­mo­rial Park is where the coun­try’s revered and wealthy lay their loved ones to rest.

It is where for­mer soc­cer player Lu­cas Radebe chose to in­tern his wife Feziwe and where for­mer Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela’s great­grand­daugh­ter Ze­nani was buried.

It is where Rwan­dan-born bil­lion­aire Miko Alexis Rway­itare’s fam­ily wanted him to be. Con­sid­ered the “Great Man of Africa”, Rway­itare lived in Bel­gium at the time of his death. How­ever, when his fam­ily learnt about the me­mo­rial park, they spared no ex­pense to have his body flown to South Africa and buried here.

Prom­i­nent artists, po­ets, an­thro­pol­o­gists and in­flu­en­tial po­lit­i­cal fig­ures have been buried here along­side their loved ones.

“I learnt about the me­mo­rial park in 1999 when I at­tended a fu­neral ser­vice. In­stantly I knew where I wanted my fam­ily to be buried. I de­signed the tomb­stone and worked with stone­ma­sons in Brak­pan. It took them two weeks to com­plete it,” says Mabit­sela, whose baby sis­ter Clara was the first mem­ber of his fam­ily to be buried there.

Not far from the Mabit­sela’s fam­ily es­tate, cherub stat­ues are placed in an im­mac­u­late man­i­cured gar­den in­side other fam­ily grave es­tates.

Close by neon-coloured and beaded wind chimes ring peace­fully in the chil­dren’s sec­tion. They are for a young girl who died last year. Her grave is all things bright and beau­ti­ful from swirling pink and crim­son ar­ti­fi­cial flow­ers to mul­ti­flo­ral pot plants. A heart-wrench­ing mes­sage is writ­ten in pink let­ters on her tomb­stone: “God took you away but you are an an­gel now.”

The Four­ways Me­mo­rial Park’s blue­print is based on im­mense ex­clu­siv­ity – with se­lect fu­neral prod­ucts and strin­gent se­cu­rity. Graves are priced from R27 500 for a sin­gle. Eight graves within a fam­ily es­tate can be bought for R200 000 – this ex­cludes coffins, tomb­stones, pri­ests, venues and hearses.

Burial rights for chil­dren un­der the age of five are priced at R12 500 ex­clud­ing a tomb­stone and it costs R8 000 for an ash grave where two in­ter­ments can take place.

But money seems to be no ob­sta­cle for fam­i­lies who have gone as far as to bury only one per­son in a R200 000 fam­ily es­tate.

The Me­mo­rial Park’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Deon Kieng­biel says the de­sign of the park is aimed at cre­at­ing more burial space.

“For in­stance, three peo­ple can be buried in one grave. There­fore, the eight grave sites within fam­ily es­tates can take up to 24 bod­ies. This is why our fam­ily es­tates are a top choice for many of our clients,” he said.

The me­mo­rial park has 60 more years of burial space. Kieng­biel and his en­tire team are kept on their toes to meet the ex­clu­sive re­quests made by their clients.

Some fam­i­lies want dif­fer­ent en­clo­sures.

Nor­mally bod­ies face east dur­ing burial, but the Chi­nese com­mu­nity pre­fer to face south east and one clients wanted to face south.

Kieng­biel finds it dif­fi­cult to deal with par­ents who have lost young chil­dren. “How does one com­fort an in­con­solable cou­ple who want their still­born baby or an in­fant who dies within a mat­ter of days to be buried here?

“Some fam­i­lies hire men to look af­ter the fam­ily es­tate gar­den. One is there daily. He is paid to trim the gar­den, mop and pol­ish the statue of a well-known de­ceased busi­ness­man ev­ery day – with­out fail.”

The me­mo­rial park also caters for fam­i­lies who want to have pic­nics – and bizarrely wed­dings are also held at the venue.

Orig­i­nally the park was a farm which has been owned by the Van der Merwe fam­ily for more than 105 years. In 1932 it was a flower farm.

When prospects for farm­ing were bleak, Ger­rit van der Merwe re­searched ceme­ter­ies over­seas and in 1998 es­tab­lished the Four­ways Me­mo­rial Park on the fam­ily farm. He is now the di­rec­tor.

To­day there are sev­eral sites. The Berm sec­tion caters for the tra­di­tional tomb­stones, the chil­dren’s sec­tion is tai­lor-made. The ash grave sec­tion is ac­com­pa­nied by a rose gar­den where re­mains are scat­tered.

While the me­mo­rial park con­ducts about five buri­als a month and 120 buri­als a year com­pared to the fa­mous Soweto Avalon ceme­tery where 120 peo­ple are buried a week, Kieng­biel is sure of one thing – it is here to stay be­cause more and more peo­ple de­sire to bury their loved ones the way they lived – in op­u­lence.


FAM­ILY PLOT: This is the Mabit­sela fam­ily es­tate sec­tion at the Four­ways Me­mo­rial Park, where one can ex­pect to pay R100 000 for four graves. The price is only for the land – peo­ple spend hun­dreds of thou­sands of rand to dec­o­rate as they please.

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